World heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis retired from professional boxing on Friday with dignity, grace and a heartfelt tribute to the family and friends who helped him reach the pinnacle of his sport.
The 38-year-old Briton is only the third heavyweight after Americans Gene Tunney and Rocky Marciano to retire while still the world champion. Tunney retired in 1928 and Marciano in 1956.
"I would like to announce that June 21, 2003 was my last professional fight," Lewis told a news conference.
"I'm proud to have returned the undisputed heavyweight championship of the world to England, a nation with an historic boxing tradition and to have been the first heavyweight champion from England since Bob Fitzsimmons more than a century ago.
"I am particularly pleased to be stepping down while still the reigning lineal heavyweight champion. Only two other men, Gene Tunney and Rocky Marciano, have retired as champion and stayed retired. I promise you I will be the third."
Lewis lost just two of his 44 fights in a 14-year professional career after he won the 1988 Seoul Olympic super-heavyweight gold medal for Canada. Born in east London, he moved to Canada with his mother Violet at the age of nine.
After signing with a British promoter, Lewis became the World Boxing Council champion by default in 1992 when American Riddick Bowe threw the belt into a dustbin. He lost the title two years later to Olivier McCall in the second round of their fight at Wembley.
In 1999 he became the undisputed champion with a unanimous points win over Evander Holyfield, then confirmed he was the best heavyweight of his era by stopping Mike Tyson in the eighth round of a one-sided fight in Memphis in June 2002.
Lewis prompted a round of applause from the packed news conference when he praised his mother, who was present in the room.
"One lesson she taught me is that it is easy to be around when everything is going well but that true loyalty and love are expressed and revealed during hard times," he said.
Lewis said he had always respected boxing.
"One of the reasons that I'm retiring is because I respect it so much," he said. "It's time for the younger generation of boxers to have their chance.
"I realised there was no straight road to becoming heavyweight champion of the world, I realised there would be bumps on the road.
"To go out and achieve what I've achieved, I'm proud of being heavyweight champion of the world for the last decade.
"It has been a great honour to be the standard bearer for boxing for the last decade. Thank you to my fans all over the world, I am excited about the future. Let the next era begin."